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April 08, 2013

Syria Blocks UN Chemical Weapons Mission

by Margaret Besheer

The Syrian foreign ministry said Monday it would not admit a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team, despite having asked for it.  
 
The Syrian State News Agency, SANA, quoted the foreign ministry on Monday as rejecting the team U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed sending to the country to investigate allegations of chemical weapon use, saying  Ban has “suggested a supplementary mission to deploy throughout Syrian territory”.
 
Citing the weapons investigations that preceded the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Damascus said it could not accept “such maneuvers” by the U.N. chief, who they accused of giving in to pressure from states that support the country’s opposition.
 
On March 20, the Syrian government asked the U.N. chief to set up an independent investigation into its claim that the armed opposition had used chemical weapons in the town of Khan al-Assal in the province of Aleppo. 
 
That was followed by a request from Britain and France that the U.N. should investigate three other allegations of chemical weapons use.
 
In The Hague Monday, Ban was asked at a news conference whether the team would visit all the sites in question. 
 
“It is a matter of principle that when there is an allegation, whether it is one or two or multiple allegations, all these allegations should be investigated. Only then will we be sure that there was or there were uses of chemical weapons. Without that nobody can be sure," he said. 
 
Ban said the mission’s advance team is currently in Cyprus where they are receiving technical and logistical support from the U.N. peacekeeping force based on the island. He said they are awaiting a green light from the Syrian government and he urged the authorities to show flexibility and a sense of urgency and allow the team in. But after Damascus’ latest statement, the future of the mission now appears uncertain.